Mistress Dispelling: The New Way To Save Your Marriage

Do you have kids? Are you concerned about their future? Are you worried about how much college is going to cost? Are you worried you’re going to pay an arm and a leg and your sweet kid is going to be saddled with loans forever, all to get a degree that maybe won’t even mean anything? Are you afraid by the time your precious Johnny or Sally gets a degree, the job market will be so awful that they’ll move back in with you, and will be asking for “hundos” for their “randos” until you die?

Well do not fear! A new lucrative career path has opened up and as long as the Orange Menace doesn’t get us all nuked before the end of 2017, your kids might just have a future in mistress dispelling. Oh yes, that’s a thing. The Times recently reported on the growing fad of “mistress dispellers” in China. Turns out some entrepreneurs have found a new way to capitalize on crumbling marriages. They fix them! While that kind of business will cut into my kind of business, I salute their innovation and would probably opt in if they were on Shark Tank and I was a judge on Shark Tank. What is a mistress dispeller you ask?

Well, see if your spouse is cheating on you and you want to repair your marriage without, you know, confronting the cheating and working it out like adults, you can hire a mistress dispeller who will take a two pronged approach at fixing your marriage. First she will makeover the cheated-on spouse, in mind, body and actions to make her a better mate. Concurrently, she will ingratiate herself into the paramour’s life and convince her to hit the road. How so? The mistress dispeller does recon on the mistress’s life, categorizes her motives, then skillfully disassembles the affair from the inside. Pretty nuts right? Shockingly, this isn’t the plot of a Kate Hudson romantic comedy. It sure sounds like a movie, but I googled and googled and came up short, so if this exists, please let me know. And if it turns out there isn’t a movie like this already, call me Scott Rudin, I’ve got some ideas on casting.

What’s the price point for a person who is half life coach and half evil genius? Priceless! Or actually around $45,000 for about three months of work. It’s certainly not cheap, but the services carry an alleged 90% success rate, so $45k is a pittance if you get everlasting love, right? I wonder what the makeovers are like and what exactly the coaching entails, but I am much more intrigued by the mistress part. So much deception and sneaking around is involved. It sounds like the best job. It’s like being a spy except instead of stealing confidential documents, you’re trying to lure a person into friendship over lattes. Then you play puppet master for awhile. I’ve got some ideas for how to handle certain mistress stereotypes, so let's take a crack at it...

The Work Colleague

Research the past ten years of the company’s holiday party. Have they used the same caterers for the past three years? You bet. Apply and get hired by the catering company. Show up the night of the party ready to work. Nonchalantly find your target and offer Work Mistress one of many hors d’oeuvres options. Keep circling back. Make an offhanded comment on hating the gig but loving the shrimp puffs, opening the door for her to complain about her own job. You can always count on a person to hate their job, and love anything encased in puff pastry, that is the American way. Keep chatting. Explain how you’re just working these gigs to save up for a big trip for a couple of months to find yourself. Talk about how you always dreamed of seeing the world as a kid and you’re just sick of promising yourself a life you never follow through on. Wait to see if this piques her interest. It does.

She explains she, too, always wanted to travel but there was just no opportunity. Butt in and say, oh yeah, I know how it goes, settling down, buying a house, getting married, I get it. She explains she’s not really doing any of those things actually. Wait a beat. Then say, then what’s stopping you? She explains she can’t quit her job, she’s got tons of school loans, and she’s sort of seeing this guy but it’s a mess. You empathize and say oh man if only you could only find a more challenging job somewhere else and start over. Her eyes light up.

Shanghai, she exclaims! Shanghai! Ah yes, they’re opening a new branch of the office in good old Shanghai, but you already knew that because you are a very good mistress dispeller. The two of you talk some more and by the end of the night you are fired from the catering gig (seriously, you’re supposed to circulate with those trays, that’s your main job duty), and Work Mistress is dead set on moving, taking on a more challenging managerial role to open up the Shanghai office, and even already brought it up to her boss so she wouldn’t chicken out in the morning. Tzai jien, Work Mistress! Best of luck on all your future endeavors!

The Babysitter

Deep dive into her online presence. She’s an aspiring writer! Check out her Instagram geotags and look for patterns. Does she seem to get coffee at one place a lot? Start frequenting. Knock over her iced coffee at the pick up bar and offer to buy her another. Compliment her shoes. Bump into her the next morning and wave. After a few days of smiling acknowledgments just introduce yourself. Start chatting about the neighborhood and casually drop that you work in publishing (you obviously don’t, you’re a high powered mistress dispeller, but you do have a BA in English Lit). Because this world is all about connections, Babysitter explains she’s working on a novel but she’s stuck with writer’s block. Say you know it sounds crazy, but you wouldn’t mind giving her work a gander. She agrees!

You spend two months working tirelessly on this quite crappy novel, but it starts to take shape. You explain to Babysitter Mistress that the old adage “write what you know” is totally true, and that ordinary stories become excellent stories if you inject your own history into them. The novel’s big climax is a total bust because there’s no real emotion there. You tell her to tap into any romantic pain she’s been through and she says there’s not much there. You ask her about her current dating situation and she says it’s actually pretty interesting. She’s dating an old married guy. Oh really, you don’t say! You somehow over the course of a few days convince her to dump the married guy, because she needs to feel real pain to make her book better. This book is her baby and it deserves all her attention. The world cannot live without this book! Blah blah, she buys it all, hook, line and sinker. Tell a self-absorbed writer the world needs her story and she’ll basically do anything you say after that. She dumps the married guy, stops babysitting for the family, is wracked with feelings of regret over the decision, and she falls into a deep depression for about six months. She finally crawls out of it, finishes the book and sends it your way to pass along to editors at your publishing house. You don’t work in publishing, so you ghost her and move to a different city. Two years later, you see her book at an airport Hudson News. Guess it all worked out!

PS - I am assuming The Babysitter goes to college or grad school or is a freelance writer with a lot of time to spare, and is not a high school student. Because if she’s a high school student just call the cops, case closed.

The Internet Dating Site Rando

Figure out which book club she belongs to and join that book group. All Internet Dating Site Randos belong to book club, this is just a fact. Read whatever thriller or Oprah-approved book is that month’s pick and craft a very deliberate talking point about fathers, as you know she lost her father and you are a terrible person. Keep laying it on thick and philosophical until she cracks and runs off to the bathroom. Excuse yourself to go check on her. Apologize a lot through the locked door and convince her to come out explaining how sorry you are. Be extremely kind and comforting. Suggest hitting a diner after book club and offer to buy her a tuna melt to make up for making her cry. Bond over tuna melts. Talk about your lives and interests and explain you always wanted to take up running. What a coincidence, guess who runs?

Accept her invitation to join her running group. Over the course of 12 Sunday morning runs, get to know Rando better. Also get to know Isaac, the running group leader. Notice how well Rando and Isaac get along. Talk one up to the other. Buy a $100 Chili’s gift card and tell Isaac and Rando you got it as a gag gift, and mention how funny it would be to head over to Chili’s for some post-run eats. Go to Chili’s as a trio, fake an emergency phone call, apologize profusely, order some Lime SNO-JITOs for the table and leave the gift card. Hang out in the parking lot, spy through the windows, and wait for love to blossom like a Bloomin’ Onion. Pardon me, I mixed up my fast casual dining restaurant chains! Love blossoms alright, and Rando dumps the married guy and lives happily ever after with Isaac the runner.

The Childhood Sweetheart

This all started on Facebook so go straight to the source. Childhood Sweetheart runs a custom pet accessories business which happens to have a Facebook page. Like it. Inquire about several high priced personalized pet items. Order them all. Receive them, leave glowing reviews on the Facebook page. Repeat. Private message the business and explain how much these items have really brightened your days, and frankly, changed your life. Attach pictures of (borrowed) animals wearing the goods at a dog park you know she frequents. She will respond thanking you. She will also say, oh my gosh is that Liberty Dog Park!? She's there all the time and invites you to say hello if you ever see her. You're in. You see her, say hello and strike up a pretty good friendship. You take the dogs on hikes and meet up at the craft supply store to check out new rhinestone styles. You talk about life and the future and it turns out she wants kids pretty badly. She loves the dogs and all, but she always wanted kids and time’s ticking, you know? You ask about her relationships and she says she’s actually reconnected with her first love and things are going pretty good except, can you keep a secret, he’s married. You don’t say.

Ask her all about him and what he was like back in school, and how they first got together. A lot of these stories involve Tom, married guy’s best friend in seventh grade. Ask more about Tom. Tom sounds great, and seems a lot kinder and more interesting than married guy ever was. Mention this to her. A lot. Wait for it to dawn on Childhood Sweetheart that it was Tom she really loved all along. Encourage her to reconnect with Tom. She does. They hit it off. He’s got beautiful blue eyes that would look great on their babies. Tom is also married, but that is now some other mistress dispeller’s problem.

 

Dumping Trump: A Crash Course

We originally posted this one last year, but decided it needed to be reposted. You know, now that Trump has the Republican nomination. Take a moment to read and remind yourself: this is a mutually destructive relationship.

Respectfully,

James J. Sexton

_________

I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but Donald Trump is currently a viable Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential race. You may define “viable” in any way you choose, but my personal definition is “in the debate this week.” My definition ends there.

His polling numbers are confusingly strong. There are people out there, people we know, people we’re related to, people in line behind us at the post office, people standing next to us right now in an elevator that want Trump to be president. Of our country. They want him in charge of the nuclear codes. They want him to have veto rights. They want him to command our armed forces. They want him to broker peace deals with ISIS. No seriously, the guy with the hair and the temper talking to ISIS is what they want.

While we remain inside this fever dream, we can look to those that have already dumped Trump to remind us there are good and rational people still left in America, and thankfully their votes count too. Way before Hispanics, veterans, GOP leaders, NBC, Macy’s and people with a good grasp on reality started distancing themselves from Trump, there were two women hightailing it out of Trump’s life — his ex-wives.

Eternally glamorous, bejewelled and be-accented (not a word) Ivana hit the bricks in 1992, with Marla Maples following suit in 1999. Trump and Ivana’s divorce hit the headlines recently due to alleged rape claims, or due to poor word choice, depending on who you believe. While that’s being hashed out by proper journalists, let us focus instead on the other less potentially criminal details. It was an ugly divorce and an excellent breeding ground for amazing one liners such as “Don’t get mad, get everything.”

Tabloids at the time said the split and ensuing money battle was better than anything Dynastychurned out. Most fascinating to me is, did you know a 1987 Mercedes was a big sticking point in their settlement? Odd they’d be fighting over a five year old car when either party could buy a Mercedes made out of sapphires and caviar. What a weird thing to squabble over. Most agree it was a power move by Ivana and in the end she got the car plus an estimated $25 million. I am assuming she had to sign a strict NDA barring her from ever speaking of any trade secrets. By trade secrets, I mean the architecture behind Trump’s haircut.

His first marriage disintegrated thanks in large part to his relationship with Marla Maples, his soon to be second wife. Maples recounted her life in the tabloids in a great New York Magazine piece. When news of the Trump/Ivana split hit the papers, Maples fled to Guatemala for a month to get away from reporters. She came back and they married, but it didn’t last. The Trump/Maples divorce was much less Dynasty than divorce number one. Maples explained the marriage’s demise had a lot to do with press pressure, lack of privacy and Trump’s dedication to his work. That’s quite polite of Maples seeing as we all know it probably mostly due to his insufferable personality.

Trump married for a third time in 2005 and so far that marriage is sticking. So dumping Trump was left to companies, ethnic groups, television conglomerates and people who understand how diplomacy works and what the job responsibilities of a president are.

I’m not sure how long it will take for Trump supporters to come back around to this place we call reality. It might be when Trump inevitably says something racist, illogical or just plain dumb in tonight’s debate. It might be on November 8, 2016. I truly hope it won’t have to be when he’s in power and decides to sell Alaska to Russia to pay for fence to keep us safe from Canadians and their un-American Canadian bacon. Or when he bolts giant gilded T R U M P letters onto the side of the White House. Or when he bankrupts the country just as he’s done to his businesses time and time again. Or when a large gust of wind comes along revealing underneath that yellow cotton candy there’s a “666” tattooed on his head.

Get your popcorn handy because Thursday’s debate is sure to be entertaining.


Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

 

Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

This Meme Will (Not) Save Your Marriage

This meme comes to us from Victorious Marriages, a Facebook-based movement led by a Christian minister. They’ve got lots of helpful advice to make your (deeply patriarchal) marriage a success. It’s a lot of obvious stuff like: communication is key, honesty is imperative, and don’t let one fight destroy your marriage (do a lot of people throw in the towel after one argument? Who are these people? How many marriages are they churning through in a lifetime? Can you give them my card? Or, better yet, share my Facebook page with them?). I guess if you follow their tips and give it up to the Lord, you’re bound to have a victorious marriage. That’s all well and good and I’m not here to judge anyone’s religious beliefs or explain equality to you, but I am going to go ham on that social media meme they posted.

This is where we are, huh? We need to preemptively warn others our marriages are sacred, so don’t go winky smiley face-ing at us because our will powers are too weak for that saucy catnip. Predators are just all over the internet waiting to destroy your relationship through flirty DMs. How weak are these marriages that a “haha” comment on a status update from Paul in your Zumba class can snowball into a full blown affair? Who are these home wreckers reclining on divans in silk robes, smoking a cigarette on a long cigarette holder, scrolling through Facebook for their next victim? Call me crazy but posting this meme isn’t telling the world your marriage is strong. Instead it shouts out, "hey my marriage is such a disaster that any outside influence can be insidious". It also reeks of paranoia and mistrust of the whole world. Could a meme like this actually strengthen a marriage? Let’s take a look at a few couples.

The Newlyweds. Ron and Susan just exchanged their vows in front of a hundred and twenty-five loved ones and danced the night away to such hits as “We Are Family” and “Hotline Bling.” The cake tasted weird, as wedding cakes are contractually obligated to taste weird, no matter the flavor, no matter the baker. The blissful yet exhausted couple makes their way to their honeymoon suite, both riding the line between ok drunk and sloppy drunk. Susan spends twenty minutes freeing herself from the intricate lever and pulley system keeping her dress up. She sighs with relief as she cuts herself out of sixteen layers of Spanx. Ron rubs his sore feet, blistered from the fancy yet inflexible shoes Susan insisted he wear. He playfully puts his cumberbundt around his head, Rambo Style, for the eighth time and it is still the funniest thing he has ever done. Susan’s and Ron’s eyes meet across the dimly lit hotel room. Ron asks, “You ready?” With intensity in her eyes, Susan replies, “You bet I am.” They whip out their phones and upload the Victorious Marriages social media meme to their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Of course, they do it one by one so the other can Snapchat the process. They pop the complimentary bottle of champagne the hotel left for them and toast each other. Here’s to a victorious marriage: NOTHING can stop us now!

5 Years Married. Jenna spends most of her time on Twitter @-ing customer service with complaints and live tweeting The Bachelor. She has 26 followers including her husband Mike. Mike only tweets during March Madness, but retweets all of President Obama’s posts. That is, until this past May. He synched his running tracker to his Twitter and every time he runs, the world knows, and Jenna faves every running tweet. Last week she noticed there was already a fave for his 2.1 mile run around the reservoir. That’s weird Jenna thought. So she clicked. Who’s xxxHotxxGirlxx1997xxx? And why the heck is she fave-ing Mike’s tweets? You and I know xxxHotxxGirlxx1997xxx is a bot. Sure I like to imagine she’s a middle aged woman in Lithuania looking to catfish Mike and blackmail him into serious debt, but life isn’t that exciting. Jenna helped Mike sign up for Twitter in 2011, and she happens to know Mike’s password. Jenna has some self-esteem and abandonment issues that she’s working on in therapy, but she’s not far enough along to stop herself from DM-ing xxxHotxxGirlxx1997xxx the handy Victorious Marriages meme her mom sent her after going to church retreat. She then changes Mike’s password, locking him out of his own account. Mike mentions it a week later. Jenna says, "Oh that’s odd." Mike is too lazy to look into it. He’s also too lazy to sign up for a new Twitter account. Yahtzee! A victorious marriage!

10 Years Married. Steve and Allie got the cutest Goldendoodle the world ever did see. They named him Biscuit. One day Allie’s friend says Biscuit is so cute he could definitely be Instagram famous. Allie mulls this over and later that night opens up an Instagram account for Biscuit. Within a month Biscuit has two thousand followers. Not famous by Kardashian standards, but Biscuit lands himself a BarkBox sponsorship and that’s nothing to scoff at. Allie is featured in his pictures every so often. She usually doling out a treat or giving a belly rub. TuckerLovesGolf84 is a long time follower and a frequent liker. He usually throws out a “So cute!” comment every other picture or so. But on the posts featuring Allie he goes a bit further. Usually it’s something like “So cute! And so is his mom! ;)” Steve’s eyes narrow at these comments. He gets it. Allie’s beautiful and smart and funny and that’s why he married her. He’s not threatened by TuckerLovesGolf84. He trusts Allie. He doesn’t want to be the type of person who is worried about comments on his dog’s novelty Instagram account, but this whole thing just sticks in his craw. He comes across the Victorious Marriages Facebook page one night during his casual evening scrolling. He shows Allie. Allie thinks it’s really funny. Steve “jokingly” suggests they post it on Biscuit’s Instagram account. Allie is confused. Steve explains he’s kidding, ha ha total joke, ha ha... Allie goes back to her book. Steve has low level, constant anxiety for the rest of Biscuit’s life. He is heartbroken when Biscuit dies six years later, but also, secretly relieved. They close Biscuit’s Instagram account. Rot in hell, TuckerLovesGolf84. Another victorious marriage!

25 Years Married. Patrick and Ellen have been happily married for 25 years. Ellen is an avid reader and forms a book club with a group of her close friends. Their first pick is a steamy revenge story about a scorned woman. It is not good. The whole book club agrees and the conversation wanders as the pinot flows. Turns out the daughter of Christine, the main character, is seeing a married man she met of SlapChop. That’s the name of the phone thingy, right? Christine is pretty sure that’s what it’s called. Anyway, he’s got a wife and kids and he’s Christine’s age and it’s despicable but what can Christine do? Her daughter isn’t going to listen to her, so she just keeps her mouth shut and tries to stay out of it. A seed is planted in Ellen’s mind. What if Patrick is on the SlapChop and Ellen has no idea? What if he’s secretly seeing one of her friend’s daughters? Why has he been so quiet lately? Is it an affair, oh god, what if it’s an affair? Ellen and her wine drunk brain pull out her phone and go to Goggle.com. Wait that’s not right. Google. Right, google. She searches “save my marriage,” drops her phone, steps on it, falls down and is now bleeding from the head. While waiting to be seen at the emergency room, she keeps googling ways to save her marriage and finds herself on the Victorious Marriages Facebook page. Patrick rushes to Ellen’s bedside where she’s getting stitches and is being treated for a concussion. He’s so relieved she’s ok but she keeps babbling about marriage victory and begs him to put a picture on Facebook for her. He says of course whatever you want. He drops Ellen’s hand as the nurse comes in to check on Ellen. It’s Tracy. Patrick and Tracy been having an affair for two years. They met at the gym. They did not meet on SlapChop. Another victorious marriage!

40 Years Married. Max and Julia have been married for 40 years. They heard a report on the news about social media fueling infidelity. They don’t really get what social media is and are too tired to get divorced so they have dinner and continue to not know how to use Facebook. Another victorious marriage!


These examples are ridiculous because this meme is ridiculous. I guess my point is, while social media certainly plays a part in modern marriages crumbling, so does the rest of life. A wedding ring worn on the subway isn’t going to keep a creep or handsome Hollywood actor from talking to you, and neither is a meme on the internet. Stop worrying about old flames and strangers coming after your spouse, and instead maybe, I don’t know, talk to your spouse. Because memes aren’t going to prevent stuff from happening and moving to a nuclear fallout shelter with just your wife and 30 years worth of canned goods isn’t really a plausible option

 

Seven Podcasts to Listen To During Your Divorce

Getting divorced means you will inevitably have more time on your hands than you used to. Time you spent fighting with your spouse will now be spent on more productive activities like going to the gym, watching TV shows you actually like, and standing in the kitchen eating yogurt naked just because you can.

This got me thinking—as did the fact that National Radio Day is coming up this Thursday—that podcasts are an awesome way to coach yourself through this transitional period. Let’s be honest, we rarely know what to do with new freedom when it’s granted to us, it typically takes a while to figure out who we are in this new world of self-discovery. So while you’re wading around in the pool of alluvial muck that will become your new life, why not listen to some interesting and motivating podcasts? These are my recommendations.

Stuff to Blow Your Mind – “Animal Sexual Fluidity”
So, this is an amazing podcast, and I recommend listening to ALL the episodes as soon as you can. However, since you’re going through a seriously confusing time in terms of your personal life, possibly your sexuality and maybe even your family structures, I’d say start with this episode. The bizarreness of nature—and its insistence on change—will help put your current transition in perspective, while distracting you with lots of sexually diverse and crazy sex-changing animals. It will blow your mind.

This American Life – “Break-Up”
This is an old episode of this now world famous podcast (ca. 2007), but it has always stuck with me because of how cliché—and how sad—breakups actually are. And also how necessary they are. The best thing about this episode is that Phil Collins shows up to discuss possibly the best breakup song of all time, and to tell the story behind writing it. You’ll laugh, you’ll relate to Phil Collins, you might cry a little—this is just listening gold.

Stuff You Should Know – “Polyamory
Come on, you know you’re curious—and now you can look into things that titillate your curiosity without guilt! This episode of the Stuff You Should Know podcast looks into the myths and realities of what it means to be in a committed relationship with multiple people—and it’s probably not what you were expecting.

Serial
Officially, this podcast has nothing to do with your divorce, except that you are going to get so into it that you’ll forget all about your divorce for a few precious hours, and focus instead on this masterpiece of storytelling. The podcast is twelve episodes describing one reporter’s experience of re-opening the real-life 1999 murder investigation of a high school student. If you find yourself running over and over your divorce in your head, this is the podcast to break the cycle.

Berkeley’s Happiness Matters Podcast – “Is Divorce Always Bad for Kids?”
There’s a common perception—or maybe it’s just conventional wisdom gone awry—that having two parents together, no matter how unhappy they are, is better for children than having two divorced parents. This podcast episode looks at that question in detail, providing a lot of research context, in order to find out whether divorce is really always bad for kids.

Sex Nerd – “The Sex Slang of Urban Dictionary” (in 2 parts)
This podcast is genius from the folks at The Nerdist, and taps into subjects of interest and humor around human sexuality. This two-part episode is both hilarious and extremely useful (because you’re going to need to know this stuff now that you’re single). Enjoy your lesson!

RadioLab – “Who Are You?”
Let’s face it: you have no idea who you are anymore. Don’t worry—it’s totally natural to feel that way after a divorce. Even if you’re not getting divorced, it’s healthy to wonder about this question at least every few years throughout your life. (If you’re not getting divorced that means you’re just reading this post because you think I’m entertaining, and that means you are already awesome, so stop worrying.) But seriously, “Who am I?” is pretty much the most important question we can ask ourselves after “How do I get food?” and “Where’s the bathroom?” so this one really deserves your time. Plus RadioLab is funny.

 

Love and Radio – “Thank You, Princess.”
Did you know people buy used panties off the internet? Or that some people will literally pay good money to be harassed in a manner that possibly reminds you of your divorce? Have a listen to this crazy episode of Love and Radio, which is essentially an interview with a self-described “Humiliatrix”… and be prepared to be completely weirded out, yet completely fascinated. I want to put out a quick disclaimer that this is at times a strange podcast, and that this episode in particular is pretty out there. As such I’m not condoning the subject matter, some of which is likely to be illegal—but it is REALLY entertaining.

Happy listening, and Happy (early) National Radio Day!

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

Going Public With Your Divorce: 10 Tips From a Seasoned Divorce Attorney

So you’ve decided to get a divorce, and you now have to daunting task of actually telling people…Or maybe you’ve been going through a divorce, and have learned a few hard lessons about what not to say about it to your friends, family, kids…

Either way, from the moment you tell the first person, the world becomes a bit of a minefield, for reasons personal and legal, when it comes to talking about your divorce during your divorce.

Here’s a list of what to say–and what NOT to say–while you’re getting divorced. This is the same advice I give my clients, taking into account how what you say out of court can affect what happens in court.

Have a Plan.
This is my life, and I live each and every day by this maxim, because it’s the key to successful divorces. Know what you’re going to do. Write it down. Put it on a timeline. Check things off as you go. In this case, the plan is about deciding who to talk to and how you’re going to do it. Seriously–don’t be too proud to write this stuff down.

Decide Who You’re Going to Tell & In What Order.
It’s important that your family doesn’t know you’ve filed for divorce before your spouse, or that your kids don’t find out from a neighbor. Starting with the people who will be most affected, plan who to tell and what language you’ll use (it obviously won’t be the same with everyone you tell).

Don’t feel the need to tell everyone, either. Stick to the people who are directly affected, and the people whose support you’re going to be calling on during the divorce.

Choose a Headline.
The obvious one–“We’re getting divorced”–isn’t going to be enough for the people who are close to the fray, like your family and close friends. They’ll want to know more, and having invested in your marriage in various ways themselves, you might feel they deserve that. Decide exactly what you’re ready to say about a) your reasons for splitting, and b) what the future will hold. Use calm rather than emotional language.

Focus On the Positive. Within Reason.
Let’s face it, this isn’t a positive situation. But if you can take a positive–or even a neutral–tone regarding what you try to say about it, you’re likely to avoid ending up in an accidental rant, or bursting into tears in public. Not that this won’t happen anyway, it probably will. But having a positive message, however forced it might seem, will actually help you feel more in control, and be more in control. Eventually you’ll probably find that that positive message is something you sincerely feel.

Stay On Message.
A PR classic, it’s important to have your neutral or positive take on things in mind, and memorized, so that you will be able to remind yourself of what to say when people ask, which they will. This helps you keep from being goaded into talking about things you’re not ready to, to have conversations with your spouse that are counterproductive, or to have a meltdown in the grocery store (see #4). Know your message and stick to it.

Be Ready For Backlash.
Some people love hearing about divorce, because it feeds the rumor mill, and they’ll (subtly) grill you for details that they’ll then go repeating. This is inevitable, and you just have to be prepared to ignore it. Other people hate hearing about divorce because it means their marriage, too, is potentially fallible. They’ll be full of disapproval. Again, just ignore it. Or, have a response on-hand for when people are less than supportive, something that puts up a boundary without causing a confrontation, like “Well, we’re really trying to keep this as a family matter, but thank you for asking” or “I appreciate your input” followed by a quick change of subject.

Don’t Post Anything on Social Media. 
Anything you post on social media is effectively public, and can be used against you in court. Keep your privacy settings at maximum levels during your divorce, and you should refrain from mentioning anything related to your divorce at all–even rants, or rather, especially rants. (That’s what your divorce lawyer and therapist are for.) Here’s a useful infographic about what not to do on social media during your divorce.

Verbal, Not Written. 
On that note, be aware that anything you put in writing–like a private message on social media or an email–could end up out in the public domain. In divorce proceedings, sometimes these things unfortunately come up. If it’s not something you’re okay with the judge reading, don’t put it in writing.

Don’t Talk About Your Divorce at Work.
The exception here is if you have colleagues that you’re very close to, as in best friends. Otherwise, you’ll be wise to try to keep your divorce out of the workplace. On one hand, it can come across as unprofessional or airing your personal business in public; people have surprising attitudes about divorce sometimes.

On the other, talking about it could easily make you become angry or upset at work, which is unprofessional. There’s also the fact that if you let everyone know what’s happening in your personal life, it might affect how they interpret your professional work, regardless of whether it’s affecting your work or not. To be on the safe side, you’re better off keeping it relatively quiet until the divorce is final.

Keep the Kids Out of It.
When you’re talking to friends and family, be careful who might be listening (ie. your kids–I was amazing at listening through air vents as a kid). Be especially careful when speaking about your kids directly, for example what might happen to them regarding custody; this could get back to your kids and cause a lot of anxiety.

In an age-appropriate way, discuss issues that affect your kids with them directly, and make an agreement with your spouse not to say anything negative about each other or go into details about divorce proceedings while they’re around. It’s just unnecessary negativity and pain that they don’t deserve.

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

What to Do if Your Spouse Goes AWOL (Inspired by Serial Season 2)

One of the big surprises of 2014 was the huge success of the Serial podcast, which is or was a spinoff of the relatively popular This American Life podcast put out by Chicago Public Radio. It was pretty much the first podcast to ever reach such a huge audience, with an average of 8 million people downloading every episode on iTunes alone.

The first season told the story of the murder of Hae Min Lee, a high school student, in 1999, for which her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed has at the time of my writing been in prison for almost sixteen years. Producer Sarah Koenig interviewed witnesses, uncovered many inconsistencies in the case as presented to the courts, and opened up a proverbial can of worms that is still wide open.

I was one of the people listening avidly to the first season of Serial, so I’m pretty excited that the second season has started. Sarah Koenig promised “some time in 2015,” and she waited until just last week to debut her new story. In fact, Season Two, Episode Two premieres today!

This season’s podcast is going to pick apart the story of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was allegedly held captive by the Taliban for five years in Afghanistan—but again, this is a story with a lot of complexity, suggestive details, and inconsistencies. Well chosen, Sarah.

To prep you for Serial season 2, this post is going to mix some key background information with a bit of legal perspective on what to do if YOUR spouse goes AWOL—whether from your life, your marriage, or just from financial obligations. Enjoy!

Were there signs?

This is the age-old question that gets asked every time someone does something absolutely incomprehensible. The serial killer was “just a normal guy,” the rope bridge “looked pretty safe,” and your spouse never seemed like the kind of person to just pick up and take off.

According to other soldiers who knew Bowe Bergdahl, he was basically a normal guy before he disappeared—a disappearance that is now being looked at by many as a desertion of a very strange kind. “He was focused and well-behaved,” soldier Jason Fry has said.

But also, Bergdahl did say to Fry at one point, “If this deployment is lame, I’m just going to walk off into the mountains of Afghanistan.” So there’s that.

There was also the weird fact that, according to soldiers in his unit, on the morning he went missing, he stacked all his stuff up neatly, except for his compass, which went missing with him. Not enough for you? He also apparently mailed his computer and other possessions—inexplicably—to his parents prior to his disappearance. So … yeah. There were signs.

I think you can safely assume, if your spouse gets distant and starts mailing all of his or her possessions away, that there might be something fishy going on. What’s tougher to get a handle on are the psychological signs, and the emotional ones. Is your spouse going distant because they’re stressed about work, or because they want out?

When a spouse walks out on a marriage, it sometimes means walking out on the children of the marriage as well. Some states call this desertion and others call it abandonment. In either case it’s generally grounds for divorce.

The exact definition of abandonment varies, but usually it means the spouse has been gone for one to two years, has not made any financial contributions, and refuses to reconcile if they are in touch at all.

What should be done?

When Bergdahl went missing, a huge amount of military resource was put into trying to track him down, and there was a lot of controversy surrounding whether or not the US government should negotiate for his release (ie. “negotiate with terrorists”). For much of the time he was gone, he was the only US soldier being held as a prisoner by the Taliban, so it was fairly high-profile.

If you think your spouse is about to go AWOL (or worse, they already have), you probably lack the resources of the US military in trying to hold them accountable in your marriage. There are some things you can do, however.

If you have children, you can file for temporary custody, which is likely to turn into permanent custody once you finalize the divorce. You can also ask the court for a temporary order of child support. In extreme cases, you can ask the court to terminate parental rights of the deserting spouse, if they are seen to be an unfit parent.

Once the spouse has been gone from your marriage for two years, and one year in some states, you’re in a good position to file for divorce.

What really happened?

But getting a divorce doesn’t answer the biggest question that some spouses have after being deserted. The biggest question, of course, is “Why?” Why did the person just leave, instead of resolving the situation in some other way? How could they leave a life you created together, without a second thought? And so on.

In my experience, satisfying answers to this question are few and far between. Usually, the simple answer is “avoidance”—some people just can’t deal with having grownup conversations. In a few unfortunate scenarios, people had already started a new life with someone else. You might find out why your spouse went AWOL in time, or you might never get the answers you feel you deserve. And this can be infuriating.

In the case of Bowe Bergdahl, finding out what really happened is the whole point, or so it seems. Some people claim he left a note saying he was going to “start a new life,” but the note hasn’t been since produced. There are stories of his being kidnapped and tortured by Taliban captors, and as many stories that he walked away with them on his own free will. And there are apparently a LOT of strange little ins and outs of his story that just don’t add up.

For the Deserted

Sadly, abandonment is not that uncommon as a grounds for divorce, but luckily it’s fairly easy to resolve from a legal standpoint. Once your spouse has left you for a certain period, it’s hard for the courts to deny you a divorce—but you’ll want to have legal counsel to ensure that you get what you deserve out of the situation.

If your spouse has gone AWOL, feel free to contact me for advice on your specific situation. If you’re an abandoned military spouse, you might find this site helpful in understanding your options.

If you’re interested in listening to Serial, either the last amazing season or this coming one, you can download it here. If you’re interested and you’ve never downloaded a podcast before, here’s what to do.

Questions? Comments? Leave a comment, share on Facebook, or tweet it!

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

Top 10 Reasons to Be Thankful for Your Divorce

It’s that time of year again, when everyone is talking about being thankful for everything and you’re just thinking, “Shut up and let me drink my Cinnamon Latte in peace.” Not surprisingly, going through a divorce around the holidays can be rough. So, I’m here to spread some Thanksgiving cheer that ISN’T cliché and irritating, or so I’m telling myself. Here are your reasons to be thankful—actually for real thankful—for your divorce right now.

  1. No more drama. For the first time in a long time, you’ll be able to roll through the holidays with a lot less drama, on average, than your past holiday seasons have likely entailed. Time to chill out and actually get a break for once.
  2. No compromises on Thanksgiving food. It’s been years of accepting the traditional choice of turkey when everyone knows duck is more delicious, and foregoing the corn soufflé because “there’s not enough oven space.” No more! Make what YOU want.
  3. No need to visit the in-laws. No more obligation to visit anyone on your spouse’s side of things for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year, only the joy of doing so if you actually want to. And no need to buy them all gifts, either.
  4. Celebrating the way you want to. Feel like spending all your free time drinking mulled wine in your pajamas from mid-November to the New Year? Watching the Home Alone trilogy back to back every weekend day? Making a version of Thanksgiving dinner every Thursday so you can have leftover turkey sandwiches until you’re thoroughly sick of them (just in time for Christmas)? You can do that. And anything else you want
  5. Holiday shopping—for yourself. The holiday shopping season is well upon us, and now, instead of hemming and hawing over what gift will be appropriate for a partner who probably won’t appreciate it anyway, you can spend equal energy hemming and hawing over what to get for yourself. Go on, treat yourself!

6. Focusing on what matters. With all the mental energy you’ll be saving this year by not fighting with your ex/soon-to-be-ex, you’ll have space to focus on the truly good things about life, your future, yourself, your kids if you have them … Basically, the things that the holidays are actually supposed to be about.

7. Focusing on pumpkin pie. Failing that, you can always bury yourself in some delicious, warm-with-ice-cream-on-toppumpkin pie. Mmmmmm.

8. Only dealing with your own baggage. There are going to be hard moments during the holidays, let’s face it. But now you only have to deal with your own stuff—not yours and someone else’s.

9. No fights over whether or not to send out holiday cards. Some people like doing this, some people loathe it. Those who think couples should do it end up doing most of the work and resenting it. Those who think it doesn’t matter end up frustrated. Now you can do it your way, whichever way that is; this is one holiday fight that’s no more.

10. New beginnings. I saved the best for last. This is the thing to be most thankful for as you go through your divorce: a new start. As the year winds to a close, you are finishing one crappy chapter, and in all likelihood starting the best chapter, of your Use the time to focus on what’s important, who you are, who you want to be, and where you—only you—want to go next.

Have something to ask, or add, or want to throw something at me? You can do it virtually by tweeting or posting to Facebook or leaving a comment below!

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

How Do You Make New Friends after Divorce?

The thing about major life changes, is that they always affect more than one aspect of your life—they usually affect pretty much every aspect of your life. Divorce, for many of us, means a big change in our social lives.

Of course there’s the initial “I don’t want to see anybody,” curled-up-in-a-ball phase. This is often followed by the “Don’t take pity on me / don’t-need-anybody-but-myself” phase, which can throw another wrench into the gears of your social world.

Eventually, when you crawl out from under your divorce rock, you might find that all of your previous social engagements have dried up, and/or you might realize that hanging out with your usual crowd is going to mean risking running into your ex. Or worse, it’s going to mean putting your friends in the awkward position of choosing between you, and the business of figuring out which friends are “yours” and which ones are “theirs.” 

Embracing your independence, this is quite possibly the perfect time to get out of your bubble and make some new friends.

Making friends as an adult is inevitably a heck of a lot harder than it was to do as a kid. I mean, as a kid, all you have to do is give somebody your Snack Pack and you’re in. With adults, you’re competing with their busy schedules, and with the fact that, to be frank, most adults aren’t looking for new friends.

So how do you do it?

Workout Buddies
Yeah, you probably need to get in shape anyway, right? There’s almost no better foundation for a healthy, motivating friendship than giving each other support, and holding each other accountable, for getting or staying in shape. You might not want to say “Hey, you should get in shape with me!” out of the blue—that could have the exact opposite effect you’re going for—but if someone mentions wanting to get out and be more active, for example, invite them to meet you for a hike or walk in the park.

Making a Friend At Work
Maybe you’re one of those people who initiates after-work beers … or maybe you’re one of those people who avoids those people. If the latter is true, burst through your antisocial tendencies and give it a chance at least a couple of times. Sometimes just saying Yes turns into a friendship.

Play Dates
Use your kids! The funny thing about playdates—and this is something all parents know and don’t talk about—is that sometimes your kids’ friends have parents you’d rather not hang out with, and sometimes they don’t get along with YOUR friends’ kids at all. And you just deal with it. And sometimes, randomly, you’ll find that golden equilibrium where everybody’s entertained—and these are the friends you should never let go. Playdates are also a unique opportunity where you’re achieving something and at the same time you have very little to do, much like being on an airplane. So it’s a great time to just chat and get to know the other parent anyway. It’s a fertile ground for friendship.

Get Back in Touch
We all have those old friends that we’ve just lost touch with, and feel a TAD guilty about losing touch, just enough to keep us from picking up the phone and giving them a call. This can go on for decades. Make a list of your old friends who you haven’t talked to in awhile (Facebook doesn’t count) and give them a call. Be the bigger person. They’ll almost certainly be very pleased that you called first.

Volunteer
If you’re one of those nice people who cares about things, find a cause and start volunteering! You’re sure to find like-minded, kind-hearted people like yourself. Just make sure to pick an activity that involves being with these other people, rather than off doing something on your own.

Professional Networking Events
If you’re a busy professional, going to networking events can be a nice way to kill two birds with one stone—work AND play. Conferences that last a few days are particularly good for making new friends, because they effectively take a bunch of busy people out of their normal routine, and this leaves space for new relationships to happen. Ever notice how people at conferences are more open to chatting? It’s because that’s why they’re there: to meet people.

Join a Group
Joining a group is one of those no-brainer things for adults who want to make friends, because they almost certainly guarantee it. Also, there are groups for everything—from antique appreciation societies to anime enthusiasts—so you are bound to find something that interests you. Groups that meet regularly are the best for friendmaking, because of the consistency, ie. you’re less likely to lose track of each other, because there’s pre-scheduled meeting every week or two. And you already have a basis for a friendship in that you share a common interest, so it’s a winner on all fronts.

Have something you want to add, complain about, share, demand? I’m all ears! Leave me a comment below or tweet to me!

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

Divorce Jargon Cheat Sheet

Remember that Friends episode where Joey bought an encyclopedia volume because he couldn’t keep up a conversation with the other friends? He found himself nodding along hoping no one would catch on that he was completely clueless. Then he got volume V of an encyclopedia and was a regular Charlie Rose for a few seconds until the conversation moved onto something not V-related.

Don’t be Joey when it comes to your divorce. Use the handy guide below to demystify all the legalese heading your way. Also, don’t be Joey when it comes to the rest of your life either. Would it kill you to pick up a newspaper once in awhile?

Abandonment: When one spouse peaces out for at least one year without consent or justification. This concept used to have some legal relevance.  Now that New York is a “no fault” state nobody cares. You can tell how old this particular law is by the fact it includes the statement that the spouse must be absent for a period of twelve months “with no tidings.”  

Adultery: You probably know this one. It’s cheating. The cheat-cheat-cheating.

Alimony: The bucks. That sweet dough or financial support one spouse is required to provide the other after separation or divorce. Usually tax deductible by the individual paying it and taxable income to the person receiving it. In New York this term is no longer used and has been replaced by the term “Maintenance.”  It still costs the same.  

Attorney’s Fees: The cold hard cash you give me. Take some small comfort in the fact that I’m passing most of it along to my own ex-wife.  

Child Support: Money paid by one spouse to the other to cover a child’s expenses. Child support generally covers the “shelter expenses” of the child: food, clothing, contribution to housing. There can be additional funds awarded for things like unreimbursed medical expenses and educational expenses but “child support” covers most stuff so if Junior wants a new lacrosse stick or prom dress it’s covered under “child support” unless the person paying is feeling generous.   

Constructive Abandonment: When one spouse refuses to have sex with the other spouse for a period of at least a year, and without justification. That’s right folks: you are legally required, in New York State, to have sex with your spouse at least one time per year. Mark it on the calendar. Perhaps have it coincide with changing the clocks for Daylight Savings Time?  That way you can have sex, change the clocks and the battery in the fire detectors and, for at least one night, get an extra hour of sleep knowing that your marriage and home are both especially “Fireproof” for that night (Yes…that was a deliberate Kirk Cameron reference).

Cruel and Inhuman Treatment: Cruelty (physical or emotional) committed by the Defendant against the Plaintiff that makes living together unsafe or otherwise impossible. Forcing a spouse to watch James Franco’s Palo Alto is not considered cruel and inhuman treatment in any state, though it should be.

Defendant or Respondent: The person who has a divorce or Family Court action filed against them. I can usually see them coming as they walk into my office holding papers in their hand and saying “I meant to come see you sooner….”

Earning Capacity: A person’s ability to earn money. Things to consider: education, training, job experience, million dollar Hollywood smile, sick dance moves.

Emancipation: How teen stars divorce their momagers to get full control of their sitcom money. Also when a child under 21 marries, enlists in the military, or is financially self sufficient thereby making them no longer eligible for child support.

Equitable Distribution – How marital property is divided. Equitable doesn’t have to mean 50/50.

Family Court: Where you’ll be hanging out to get custody, child support and visitation ironed out. Ask around to find out where the good vending machines are. There’s always one good one and it’s never easy to find. Avoid the water fountains. Spring for the bottled water from the machines. Trust me on this one.  

Jurisdiction: The state where your divorce takes place. Usually residing someplace for six months or more gives that state jurisdiction over the divorce. Whether or not that state is the right “venue” is another question entirely.  

Legal Custody: The legal responsibility and right to make decisions for a child under 18. I’m not talking about where the child should have dinner tonight (your ex gets to make those decisions during his or her visitation/parenting time).  I’m talking about “major decisions” such as what religion will the child be, will they attend public or private school, can they have elective cosmetic surgery? Some of these decisions have financial ramifications.  

Marital Property: All cars, TVs, furniture, jazz shoes and any other stuff acquired by the couple from the date of marriage to the beginning of the divorce process. Debt can also be considered property so remember that gets whacked up too. Some things, such as an inheritance or proceeds from a personal injury award may not count as Marital Property and are considered Separate Property. Key point: the fact that something is in your “sole name” may not protect that asset from division.  

Mediation: A rap sesh between a couple and a mediator where the couple tries to hammer out their divorce issues and come to some sort of agreement. Sort of like couples therapy but the couple is not looking to work things out to stay together.

No Fault Divorce: Neither spouse has to prove the other did something wrong. No one has to give a reason for wanting the divorce. The couple just has to stand in front of a darkened mirror and chant “No Fault Divorce” three times and the judge appears in the mirror covered in blood wearing a yellowing bridal veil and okays it. Kidding about that last bit.

Order of Protection: An order from the court that demands a person stop harassing another person, or orders them to stay away from a certain place such as a home, school or office.  This can be obtained in Family Court or Justice Court (or both).  

Palimony: Like Alimony but for pals who weren’t legally married, but were living together in a marriage-like relationship. This no longer exists in New York State.  Please stop asking.

Parenting Time: The new term for visitation.  Also called “custodial access time” or “access time” the idea being that you don’t “visit” with your child. This is intended to make somebody feel better about only seeing their child on alternate Wednesdays.  

Plaintiff or Petitioner: The spouse who files for divorce. The individual who incepts the action.  The only real benefit to being the “first to file” is that you get to go first if the case goes to trial (this isn’t always a good thing) and you have to pay the filing fees (currently $385.00).

Physical Custody – You can reach out and pinch your cute kid’s cheeks because they are with you, in your physical custody. The child most likely lives with you and your home is considered the kid’s “primary residence.”  This is sometimes a very lucrative arrangement as having “primary physical custody” usually results in receiving child support.

Pro Se: Going solo and representing yourself sans lawyer. Also known as having little or no self preservative instincts. People ask me all the time (usually at a consultation) “Can’t I represent myself?” and the answer is “Yes.”  You can also do your own dental work. All you need is a drill, a high pain tolerance and an abundance of tenacity.  Good luck with that.  

Separate Property: Stuff that is out of bounds to split up, meaning it belongs solely to only one spouse. This could be premarital property that was never “commingled” with marital property.  This could be stuff you got after the filing of the divorce action.  

Separation Agreement: The written agreement that spells out all the specifics regarding your divorce and the arrangements the former couple has agreed to. This is how the overwhelming majority of cases end when people finally realize that Judges don’t possess any particular wisdom on any of these issues. If your lawyers divide your assets – they do it with a scalpel.  If a Judge does it – they do it with a chainsaw.  

Subpoena: Tricky to spell but easy to explain. It’s the court’s way of telling you (or a witness in your case) when and where to be to testify, or it’s way of asking to provide certain documents. If you get served with one please call me.  If your business partner gets served with one please call me on my cell phone as soon as possible.

Uncontested Divorce: First a magical alignment of planets, heavens and earth occurs. Then Glinda the Good Witch bubbles down from the sky with a red wagon full of golden retriever puppies. She confirms that both parties are totally cool with every divorce related issue including spousal support, custody and splitting property. The couple then pets the puppies and the divorce is officially granted and sealed with puppy kisses. Just kidding, planets don’t have to align and Glinda can take the day off. The puppies are optional, though strongly recommended.

Uncontested divorces are very common and totally doable, so keep the faith. This stuff isn’t rocket science but it does require a certain level of knowledge and experience.  Call me sooner rather than later. Trust me. I’ll be gentle.  

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

Divorce Through the Ages

When it comes to divorce history, the average person can muster up about three talking points: that whole Protestant church reformation thing, Elizabeth Taylor, and that time Uncle Rob left Aunt Debra, started dating your French teacher and Thanksgiving got très weird.

While those are some biggies, there’s a whole rich tapestry of divorce history out there. Turns out as long as people have been getting hitched, they’ve been getting unhitched. Let’s take a gander.

500 BCE – When not busy inventing democracy and partying, ancient Greeks were getting divorced left and right. Their motto was “matrimonia debent esse libera” which loosely translates to, if you want to date Todd go ahead I’m not stopping you. The ancient Greeks saw marriage as a practice to enter into freely and exit just as freely.

331 CE – Constantine got all religious right wing on the good people of the Roman Empire. Under his Christian rule, disgruntled couples needed a serious reason to divorce. Such grounds included proving your husband was a murderer, poisoner or tomb disturber. I dated a tomb disturber once. It was not awesome.

1000 CE – Christianity spread like wildfire through Europe, and with it came a very conservative stance on divorce. It wasn’t allowed at all but there were some workarounds. If for instance you had really had it with your husband and his inability to throw his codpieces in the hamper, notbeside it, you could ask the church for an annulment. They were hard to get and could only be granted if the couple entered into the marriage “improperly” but I guess you had to try what you could to get away from that nightmare and his terrible lute playing.

1517 CE – Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses, which much like Kat’s poem in 10 Things I Hate About You, was a long list of complaints, to the All Saints’ Church door (historians dispute this, but it’s a nice image). Luther’s list was about his grievances with the Catholic Church, not Heath Ledger, and with it he kickstarted the Protestant Reformation.

1537 CE – Henry the VIII wasn’t too hot on Catherine of Aragon anymore so he changed the course of history by renouncing the papacy and made the Church of England Protestant. Along with the rest of Protestant Europe, divorce became a civil issue rather than a religious one. In an interesting twist, to be granted a divorce one member of the marriage had to wrong the other. If both people broke vows, they were stuck together. And if it was discovered that the couple was in cahoots and both wanted a divorce, no divorce would be granted.

1603 CE – Divorce was allowed in Japan as long as the husband wrote a letter to the wife informing her of the divorce. Wives were not granted the same letter writing rights, but some could seek sanctuary from their husbands in so-called Shinto “divorce temples.”

1752 CE – Prussia decided divorce was a private matter and established a law allowing for divorce in any instance where the couple mutually agreed. Austria liked the sound of that and followed suit allowing non-Catholics to divorce as they saw fit.

1800 CE – Sometime after the French Revolution settled down, divorce was legalized in France.

1931 CE – Citizens of Spain were granted the right to divorce, but not for long.

1938 CE – Franco decided he wasn’t too cool with the whole divorce thing and abolished divorce in Spain.

1953 CE – Oklahoma became the first state in the US to institute no-fault divorce.

1954 CE – The Special Marriage Act was passed in India that allowed citizens to marry and divorce irrespective of their religion.

1970 CE – An Italian law was passed allowing for Italians to divorce as long as the couple had been separated for at least five years.

1981 CE – Spaniards were finally granted the right to divorce once again and the “express divorce” (exactly what it sounds like) was introduced.

1987 CE – The Italian law was amended to make the separation period at least three years.

1995 CE – Divorce was approved in Ireland.

1996 CE – Princess Diana and Prince Charles divorced a few months after Princess Diana declared in a TV interview “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” Burnnn.

2005 CE – Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston divorced. The world wept and no one ever fully recovered.

2010 CE – New York instituted no fault divorce, becoming one of the last states to do so. A bill was filed in the Philippines to introduce pro-divorce legislation but it didn’t get very far.

2011 CE – Divorce was approved in Malta.

2015 CE – Italian divorce laws are amended again, shortening the separation requirement to six months. Divorce remains illegal for all Filipinos except Muslim Filipinos; civil annulment is an option but the process is lengthy and costly. Even Vatican City is beginning to warm to the idea of divorce… Sort’ve. 

 

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

Divorce All-Stars: Heather Mills & Sir Paul McCartney

Things seemed great for Paul and Heather at the start. They had a fairytale wedding, complete with castle and signature song. Oh, but then…

Things started going south after the birth of their child. Then things went from south to knock down, drag out war. Heather blamed the marriage’s demise on one of Paul’s older children and made various claims of abuse. Paul’s team countered with Heather’s own words found in happy anecdotes featured in a book released by Heather in 2006.

Heather fired her lawyer and began representing herself in the proceedings and asked for £125 million. Paul countered with nearly £16 million. They finally settled at nearly £25 million plus yearly support payments. To add insult to injury, during the judgement the presiding judge praised Paul’s handling of the case and scolded Heather for giving inaccurate and inconsistent evidence.

While money can’t buy you love, it can buy you freedom.

McCartney seems to have found L-O-V-E with Barbara Walters’ niece but I think it’s Martha who will always have the crooner’s heart.

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

 

Divorce All-Stars: Elin Nordegren & Tiger Woods

Who could forget the Tiger Woods/Elin Nordegren trainwreck? Once upon a time Tiger Woods was America’s golden child. Parents around the country pushed their kids into the most boring sport invented hoping their average kid with sub-average hand-eye coordination would turn out to be the next Tiger. He had sponsorships coming out of his ears and the whole country cheering for him. It seemed nothing could go wrong…

Then it turned out he was a compulsive cheater and not so cool of a dude and we all turned on him and shamed him into doing weird apology commercials like this one:

Weird, right?

Tiger and Elin were married in 2004. His indiscretions came to light in 2009 after Tiger got in a weird car accident near their home. Tiger went to cheater rehab, as was popular at the time, but it didn’t save their marriage. The divorced was finalized in 2010 and Elin walked away with a reported $100 million.

What can we learn from this? Don’t put people on pedestals and golf is boring. 

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

Gain Some Willpower & Avoid Backslide With These Handy Apps

Often the hardest part a divorce is the final step. No, not signing the papers. The real final step is avoiding the backslide. You’ve made your decision, moved out of the house, got a lawyer, had some papers drawn up and you’re ready to embark on your new life. Ahead lies freedom and independence and you’re feeling good. And wait, what’s that now? You’re more than a little tipsy at 3am. And you think it’s a great idea to call Sheila and slur/shout that you’ve made a huge mistake and “Please, please, please, Sheila give me my keys back, I swear it will all be different this time?”

Get it together, Kevin. 3pm you is going to hate 3am you. You don’t want Sheila back. You think you do right now, but you definitely don’t in the long run. Thankfully Kevin and the rest of us live in the modern age and there are tons of helpful tools out there, literally at our fingertips, to keep us strong and far away from the backslide.  

Killswitch cleans up Facebook accounts, erasing an ex from an app user’s FB life including, and arguably most importantly, wiping all pictures the user and ex are tagged in together.

How can this help you, Kevin?

Getting ready for bed, doing your last scrolls you will not “accidentally” stumble upon that picture of you and Sheila in Turks and Caicos. You won’t spend hours flipping through the thirty-one photos from that MLK Day weekend trip back when you loved each other and everything was new. You will not then decide to “just see what Sheila’s up to” hoping her privacy settings are pretty loose ever since you guys defriended each other. You will not see a picture of Sheila looking happy and tan from two weeks ago with her arm around some guy on a beach. You will not start wondering is that Turks and Caicos? Did she take that spitball to your Turks and Caicos? How could she? How could she throw everything you had out the window and defile your love and memories with some jerk in a pair of aviator sunglasses? Did she take him to the boozy brunch place with the good crab cakes? Your crab cakes? You won’t then spiral, turn on Adele and cry for the next thirty-six hours because you used Killswitch.

GAIN SOME WILLPOWER AND AVOID THE BACKSLIDE WITH THESE HANDY APPS

James J. Sexton, Esq. | September 1, 2015 | Divorce & Separation | No Comments

 

Often the hardest part a divorce is the final step. No, not signing the papers. The real final step is avoiding the backslide. You’ve made your decision, moved out of the house, got a lawyer, had some papers drawn up and you’re ready to embark on your new life. Ahead lies freedom and independence and you’re feeling good. And wait, what’s that now? You’re more than a little tipsy at 3am. And you think it’s a great idea to call Sheila and slur/shout that you’ve made a huge mistake and “Please, please, please, Sheila give me my keys back, I swear it will all be different this time?”

Get it together, Kevin. 3pm you is going to hate 3am you. You don’t want Sheila back. You think you do right now, but you definitely don’t in the long run. Thankfully Kevin and the rest of us live in the modern age and there are tons of helpful tools out there, literally at our fingertips, to keep us strong and far away from the backslide.  

 

Killswitch cleans up Facebook accounts, erasing an ex from an app user’s FB life including, and arguably most importantly, wiping all pictures the user and ex are tagged in together.

How can this help you, Kevin?

Getting ready for bed, doing your last scrolls you will not “accidentally” stumble upon that picture of you and Sheila in Turks and Caicos. You won’t spend hours flipping through the thirty-one photos from that MLK Day weekend trip back when you loved each other and everything was new. You will not then decide to “just see what Sheila’s up to” hoping her privacy settings are pretty loose ever since you guys defriended each other. You will not see a picture of Sheila looking happy and tan from two weeks ago with her arm around some guy on a beach. You will not start wondering is that Turks and Caicos? Did she take that spitball to your Turks and Caicos? How could she? How could she throw everything you had out the window and defile your love and memories with some jerk in a pair of aviator sunglasses? Did she take him to the boozy brunch place with the good crab cakes? Your crab cakes? You won’t then spiral, turn on Adele and cry for the next thirty-six hours because you used Killswitch.

 

Designated Dialer grants users the forethought they do not possess on their own. Before heading out for a night on the town, a user picks contacts he or she definitely does not want to call drunk later. If they try, they’re forwarded to a toll-free number that reminds the user calling that person is an awful idea. They can then unlock the contacts later when they’ve got better decision making capabilities and can pass a coordination test.

How can this help you, Kevin?

You’re at a bar on a Tuesday night after a really crappy day at work and wouldn’t you know it Bay City Rollers’ “I Only Want to Be with You” comes on. Sheila’s go-to karaoke song! What are the odds? A minute in you’re weeping so hard you have to sit down. God Sheila, it’s crazy but it’s true, I only want to be with you, you think/scream/cry. Or at least that’s what you feel right now in this exact moment when you’re tired and hungry and a little lonely because you went on a really terrible first date last night. You’re trying to remember why things got so bad with Sheila and while the list is long and reasonable you can’t quite remember even one thing on that list. You’ve also had about a lake’s worth of beer. You pull out your phone and you dial Sheila. But you don’t get Sheila. You get Designated Dialer. Then you get a burrito and eat it in bed and you remember how much Sheila hated your bed burritos and you know what good riddance Sheila.

Never Liked It Anyway is perfect for anyone looking to make a quick buck off a broken relationship. The site lets users buy and sell gifts and other ex memorabilia with great listings that explain why a user is selling an item and what they’d do with the money when someone purchases it.

How can this help you, Kevin?

Sheila had terrible taste. Don’t get me wrong, she had a lot of good qualities, and has so much to offer the world. She’s gonna make some guy, some guy who is not you, really happy one day. In the meantime you’ve got a pile of Sheila gifts sitting in your hall closet. Gaudy watches and flashy silk shirts galore. Who exactly was she dressing? How long have you had those sweatpants? Since high school? How often do you wear them? Always? That’s what I thought. You have no need for these confusingly expensive and very not you items. You could donate them sure. But when you left Sheila you also left her salary… And you’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit but Ebay confuses you. Good thing you’ve got Never Liked It Anyway. You can pool your earnings and buy forty to fifty new pairs of sweatpants.

Then, of course there’s Tinder for your rebounds and Snapchat for your nudes, but you already knew that, didn’t you Kevin? Go on, get out there Kev. Start your new life full of independence and free from the backslide.

 

Respectfully,

James J. Sexton

An Open Letter to Scarlett O'Hara: The Original Marriage Hacker

Dear Scarlett,

I’m one of your biggest fans. I’m a Yankee, of course, but ever since my grandmother forced me to sit through Gone with the Wind when I was eight, I’ve had a deep respect for your determination and general pluck. It’s possible you were even an inspiration for me being a divorce lawyer, because I think of you as the original marriage hacker. You couldn’t get divorced in old days, but you made the most of three unhappy marriages, taking what you could get and repeatedly building a new empire from the ashes of the last.

Let’s be blunt here: history wasn’t exactly on your side. Yet you managed to survive—and thrive—despite living through a war; despite losing your parents in really awful ways; despite having your entire livelihood burned to the ground; oh, yeah, and despite being tied into a corset, buried in petticoats and told to be a lady. You are not a lady, and that’s what we love about you. Had you lived in modern times, you would have been the terrifying grand dame of any of the “Real Housewives” series, without exception.

The thing about Gone with the Wind is that it everyone thinks it’s a story about love for other humans—your love for Ashley Wilkes, your love for Rhett Butler—but you’re not really a romantic, Scarlett. Women had it rough in the American South; marriage dictated that you were essentially the property of your husband. So not surprisingly, your most lasting love affair was with your house, the infamous Tara. I think the men were more or less just there to provide you and Mammy with some eye candy. Still, I think it’s worth having a look at who you married and how you marriage-hacked your way into a medium-happy ending.

Marriage #1: Charles Hamilton
Charles was your first husband, and you married him on a whim (I love when people do that). You had just found out that your crush Ashley Wilkes was marrying someone else, and as a way to make him jealous, you seduced his new brother-in-law-to-be, Charles Hamilton. You had a son together, in the book anyway, not the movie; then he went off and got himself killed in the war. This is convenient for you, and explains why you married someone right before they marched off to war. But Charles was a safe bet anyway, being super young a bit of a dummy; he would have made a good docile husband for a firecracker such as yourself. But anyway, he’s out of the way.

Marriage #2: Frank Kennedy
After Atlanta was burned in Sherman’s march through the South, tired and traumatized, you returned to Tara, your true love. Unfortunately you arrived to find the whole place had been wrecked and looted, and your mom was dead, and your dead had gone crazy. You probably would have been okay staying single at this point—you were well on your way to getting the farm functional again—until the government raised the taxed on your property. You needed to marry someone with money, and fast.

Rhett Butler, the face that makes all the grannies swoon, sadly wasn’t available, so you quickly settled for your sister’s boyfriend Frank Kennedy, who is—conveniently and thankfully—as much of a dummy as your previous husband was. But he was a dummy with a business, and he could pay the taxes on Tara, who was the only one you really loved, so it was fine. You and Frank even have a kid (in the book, not the movie). Then you get attacked, and in the skirmish that follows, in which local men try to defend your, ehm, honor, your husband Frank is killed. Marriage number two, complete.

Marriage #3: Rhett Buttler
After Frank dies, you’re actually fine. (Financially I mean, of course you were fine emotionally.) You don’t need a husband. But—and here’s where people get generally confused about the love story in Gone with the Wind—you are physically attracted to this Rhett Butler character. So, finally having the freedom to make the mistake most people make with their first marriages, you marry him for the sex. Oh, and also, he’s filthy rich, so that doesn’t hurt. But you don’t love him. You sort of sometimes think you do, but then not so much.

You have a child together (this one actually shows up in the movie) but then, when she dies tragically, so does your marriage. Rhett leaves you. And you decide to go back to Tara, your true wife.

What can be learned from this? A lot.

One big lesson is that if you can’t marry who you actually think you want to be with, the next best option is to marry someone else. Or, in your case, everyone else. Especially if they can get you out of debt and have a high chance of getting themselves killed in some manner.

Another lesson is that people can’t marry houses. Even today.

And a final lesson—and this is probably the real takeaway from this letter—is that women from the South are completely nuts. Take it from your friendly neighborhood divorce attorney: if you hear the rustle of petticoats, run.

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

The Best Divorce Movies to Get You Through the Dark Times

Divorce can be an isolating experience. Especially when those around you haven’t been through it themselves. They can try to comfort you and say the right things, but sometimes you need someone who knows what it’s like. Someone who’s been through it. Someone like my old pal Holly…wood.

There’s a movie out there for everyone. One that will resonate with you, no matter how unique you think your situation is. Below are my absolute favorite divorce movies. Find which one suits your needs, clear off the couch and get some snacks together.

First Wives Club
Did your husband leave you for some twenty-something? Was that twenty-something Jessie Spano? Do you like musical numbers that involve a lot of white semi-formal wear? Yes? Then First Wives Club is for you! Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler and Diane Keaton play three divorcees out for revenge. You can live vicariously through them while still taking the high road even though your ex-husband Steven is scum of the earth and his new girlfriend Tiffani doesn’t look old enough to babysit.

Mrs. Doubtfire
Did you lose your custody battle? Have you considered posing as a female nanny to spend more time with your kids? Yes? Well Mrs. Doubtfire is the film for you, friend. It’s got slapstick and hijinks galore and watching from the comfort of your couch is a heck of a lot cheaper than hiring a professional makeup artist to transform you into an older Scottish lady.  

Crazy, Stupid, Love
Did your wife leave you for some chump she works with? Do you like looking at Ryan Gosling? Are you looking for some tips to help you pick up women in bars post-separation? Look no further, all that and more awaits you in Crazy, Stupid, Love. Nothing pains me more than to tell you that you’re probably not going to meet Ryan Gosling at your local bar. And he’s not going to date you, nor is he going to teach you about pulling women like your own personal pick-up artist Mystery. But! You can watch this and pretend for two hours that those are all feasible things that can indeed happen.

She-Devil
Is your husband having an affair with a world renowned romance novelist? Do you want to ruin his entire life? Do you need a step-by-step guide? Well, you’ve got one in She-Devil. I don’t know why this movie isn’t more popular, it’s amazing. Just don’t get any ideas… So much of what Ruth does would land you in jail for a long time. 

Desperately Seeking Susan
Are you a bored stay-at-home wife? Do you read personal ads to get you through those monotonous days? Do you live vicariously through those ad writers? Have you ever been swept up in an ancient Egyptian jewel heist? Great! You’ll really relate to this one. So much is good here — fantastic soundtrack, very 80s New York, Madonna — you can’t lose.

Hope Floats
Did your husband cheat on you? Did you find out he cheated on you when he told you on a national talk show? Destroyed by the news, did you move back to your hometown? Yes? That is so freaky because that’s what Hope Floats is about! There is nothing like a sappy chick flick to really get you through the hard times and give you some perspective plus I hear women like this one, too. This flick is the perfect combination of preposterous and heartwarming. 

Heartburn
Are you ready to leave that cheating spouse and start fresh somewhere new? Have you changed your mind about that decision a bunch of times? Well, Heartburn’s for you! It’s based on Nora Ephron’s novel (and personal life!), stars Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson and takes you along on a rollercoaster of a marriage. 

Enough Said
Are you divorced and dipping your toe back into the dating pool? Are you relatively normal and understated? Yes? Then, this one’s for you. Enough Said is a sweet little film that feels real and just might make you feel less alone in the world. 

City of God
Sure…you might be getting divorced but at least you aren’t living in a Brazilian favela run by drug lords and corrupt police. Seriously…you haven’t seen City of God? Stop whatever you are doing now and go watch it. It has absolutely nothing to do with divorce but I just didn’t want to make a movie list that had the words “best” and “movies” in it that didn’t have City of God on it.  Why are you still reading this….go watch it….you can thank me later.  

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

Divorce All-Stars: Katy Perry & Russell Brand

I recently shared a post holding up Bruce Willis and Demi Moore as paradigms of mature divorce. Now I want to focus on a slightly—or very—different recently divorced couple, one you might not expect: Katy Perry and Russell Brand.

If you’re one of the uninitiated, Katy Perry is a pop singer-slash-pinup girl known for such classics as “I Kissed a Girl” and “Teenage Dream,” and Brand is a British comedian-slash-revolutionary who likes to piss off various members of the upper classes and book critics by publishing bad—but entertaining—books about Che Guevara.

In all, these two were married, I think, a total of about fourteen months. Not a great start, but hey, we all make mistakes. Anyway, once you get past the uber-quick marriage, there’s a lot to be said for how Brand and Perry handled the divorce once it was in progress. Much like the stars of divorce badassery Bruce and Demi, Perry and Brand kept things pretty much under wraps in terms of how they presented things to the public.

I mean, Brand made some jokes—that’s his job, after all—but they were pretty mild, and he was ultimately as graceful as Russell Brand has ever been about anything. He wasn’t mean-spirited, just honest: “Marriage is an arse-ache,” was about the height of detail he gave when the media was rushing for the reasons for divorce. Well, sometimes, yes it is. Moving on.

Perry was totally silent on the matter, keeping mum even after a divorce-themed prank was pulled on her by a UK DJ on the air in the middle of her divorce—now that’s professionalism. The point is, the two haven’t said anything vindictive about each other, even when hounded, undoubtedly by the press, to do so. As a result, while people might snicker at the length of the marriage, and maybe the fact that Brand originally suggested a break by text message, overall they did pretty well. Regardless of behind-the-scenes feelings, Brand opted not to take the $20 million of Perry’s money that he was legally entitled to, and Perry even left Brand a little smiley face on their divorce papers.

When it comes to talking about your marriage, there’s a fine line between what’s professional and what isn’t, and Brand and Perry managed like pros. Brand got a laugh or two and moved on; Perry just moved on. And while I don’t condone poking public fun at your marriage or divorce—seems like a recipe for making either one more difficult—I always condone poking fun at yourself. Don’t forget that laughter is the best medicine.

 

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

Why Naked & Afraid Is a Perfect Metaphor For Your Divorce

I managed to catch some of the last season of the Discovery Channel’s weirdly good idea Naked and Afraid, and it struck me while watching that it reminded me of the job I do every day; or more accurately, the job that my clients are doing that I am helping them do, ie. get divorced.

The concept of the show is pretty simple: two people, a man and a woman, are dropped off in a wilderness location, and they have to survive for 21 days. They don’t have any food or shelter, and—the big kicker—they are butt-naked. This is where we are with reality TV in 2015: butt-naked survivalism. But I digress.

One reason among many is that once I watched the show I decided it was a fantastic metaphor for divorce. Another reason is that if I insist the show is about divorce, when I’m watching it later I can call it “research.” So, here you go, friends—here are the reasons why Naked and Afraid is exactly like your divorce.

  • It’s a lot sexier for the people watching than it is for the people starring.
  • You’re sharing a bed with someone you barely know.
  • You find out who your partner REALLY is when you’re both under extreme stress and under a microscope.
  • Having your dirty laundry discussed by strangers is a lot like being naked.
  • People stop sharing. Like the lady who ate a whole coconut by herself and lied about it to her partner. …In my board room.
  • The ongoing task calls upon all your skills of endurance and emotional control.
  • At several points you wonder why you ever signed up for this. And then you remember what quitting would mean, so you keep going.
  • When you get to the finish line, you are rewarded with a huge sense of freedom—breathe it in.

Although, in divorce you get off relatively easy on some counts. For example, you don’t have to poop naked. In front of a stranger. On camera. You do get to shower during divorce proceedings, and you also are unlikely to have to eat bugs, I mean if your divorce lawyer is any good at all.

The lesson I take out of Naked and Afraid (as well as participating in many divorces) is that you have to prepare yourself. And then when you’re prepared, you have to prepare a bit more. I’m the master of preparedness. For divorce, that is; I would never last beyond the first episode of the show. In terms of divorce only, I am the McGuyver that’s going to rip through the wilderness and build you a shopping mall using only a toothpick and my bare hands. And that, my friends, is the cue that my hyperbolic metaphors have all run out.

Let me know if you’re watching the show! I want to hear your thoughts.

 

Respectfully,
James J. Sexton

Divorce All-Stars: Diandra Luker & Michael Douglas

Picture this:

It’s 1977…

Jimmy Carter has just been inaugurated…

A young couple is slow dancing on a crowded dance floor to Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night” (maybe that’s the song? I’m just taking a stab in the dark here)…

That couple? Michael Douglas and Diandra Luker. At a Jimmy Carter inauguration party. Seriously! That’s where Michael Douglas met first wife Diandra, the daughter of an Austrian diplomat. Celebrities really aren’t at all like us, are they?

The two were married six weeks later and Diandra stood by Michael’s side as his career took off. They reportedly separated sometime around 1995 and haggled over details until 2000, when the divorce was finally settled.

In recent reports, Michael has allegedly claimed the marriage went on for ten years too long. Perhaps he’s speaking about the emotional burden of ten years of strife, or perhaps it’s the $45 million payout he ended up having to fork over that’s really got him wanting to rewrite history.

Our Complicated Relationship With Social Media

While art directing my perfectly curated breakfast of avocado toast and an iced latte, complete with a blogworthy striped paper straw, I thought to myself daaamn this looks good, I’m going to get so many likes. But I also thought about a simpler time, when I ate without photographing it, when I could see the stage of a concert with my own eyes instead of through the 100 phones in front of me, and before I felt the need to micro-document every single thing I did to prove to my high school frenemies on Facebook that my life was way, way better than any of theirs. Just 10 years ago the world was very different.

With the advent of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (the holy trinity), and of course their handheld facilitator — the smart phone — our lives, our relationships and the way we interact has totally transformed. Though, with each technological triumph are we becoming a better society? A wise man named Neil Postman opined, “Technological change is always a Faustian bargain: technology giveth and technology taketh away, and not always in equal measure.  A new technology sometimes creates more than it destroys.  Sometimes, it destroys more than it creates.”

So, which camp are we in? Are we better off now than we were 10 years ago? It’s hard to say. Sure we’re all zombies with stooped heads, growing hunchbacks, stuck in the technology loop Portlandia perfectly described:

But the world has also shrunk and we’re able to meet and bond with people all over the place. It’s now easier than ever to find and build our own tribes. Access to information, art and music has never been more democratic. And of course, how we fall in love today is different as well.

I just finished reading comedian Aziz Ansari’s new book Modern Romance, an interesting sociological study on dating in modern times, in all its glory and horror. He too grappled with the question of whether we’re better off now than we were pre-social media. In America Tinder, Grindr, OkCupid and their dozens of copycats bring people together with a few taps and swipes. But in Japan, marriage and birth rates are declining and the contemporary internet age seems to be isolating people from each other more than bringing them together. Ansari didn’t find a definitive answer to whether we’re better off, but in much of the world social media is instrumental in getting people together.

It’s so commonplace now, that more and more the answer to “So how did you two meet?” is simply “the internet.” It is so the norm that chatting someone up, human-to-human, is so weird it merits experiments like this:

Sometimes people find their soulmates online and sometimes aspiring writers turn horrible dates into great short stories. But let’s focus on the soulmate couple. They swiped their way to true love and are now married, but social media’s influence does not end there. Dating apps and sites are of course expediting the cheating process, busting up marriages left and right. Curious partners snoop their way into uncovering cheating spouses who reconnected with their high school sweethearts thanks to Facebook. Concerned fans tweet wives mariage-shattering photo discoveries. Then there are all those politicians sending crotch shots to strangers, mangling their careers and their marriages in one fell swoop.

Even once the marriage is a pile of smoking ashes, the impact of selfie sharing and status updates is not over. Shiny social media accounts can make a person the envy of all their friends but they can also get them into hot water. Custody, alimony, and all sorts of other details of a divorce can be tied to what is posted online.

It does not fare well for a custody argument when a person’s supposed to be with the kids but instead they’re tagged in Facebook pictures slamming shots in Vegas. Boasting about a new car and flashy lifestyle on Twitter does not bode well for the “I swear I’m broke. I need alimony, your Honor” stance. Even the innocuous can be detrimental. Kid not properly bucked in his carseat in that Instagram post? Does it matter that they weren’t moving and two seconds after the picture was taken the parent fixed the buckle? It certainly doesn’t to a spouse’s attorney when she argues that they’re an unfit parent who doesn’t care about a child’s safety.

So what’s a person to do? Well, use your brain. Basically, don’t be dumb. Maybe posting a link to Rihanna’s Bitch Better Have My Money (NSFW!!!) video with a “Lol” isn’t the best status update to post on the morning of your court hearing. Set your privacy settings so that you can review pictures before you’re tagged in them. Think through each thing you want to post, and when you decide it’s fine, don’t post it, take a walk around the block and think it through once more. Honestly, if possible, the best idea is unplug. Take a break from all your accounts. Commune with nature. Meet up with your friends and talk to them in person. Read a newspaper instead of a newsfeed. Let us lawyers do our jobs while you enjoy the peace and quiet of a simpler life. And hope that your soon to be ex-spouse didn’t take any of this advice and all his or her internet mistakes will prove fruitful for you.

So, have we destroyed more than we created? Are we better off in this new frontier where we can Seamless tacos, swipe right to find a date, tweet the entire world our deepest and shallowest thoughts, text our grandmas happy birthday, and share the screenshots on Instagram — all without having to move an inch off our couches? Are we better communicators now? Is all this convenience giving us better, streamlined lives?

Well, the answer is simple. Just kidding! I have no idea. And I don’t have the free time to get a PhD in sociology and anthropology and the nine hundred other fields that all have to converge to get into even the same ballpark as the answer. I know this much to be true: Neil Postman was right. Social media giveth and taketh away. Social media brings us together and tears us apart. Social media can prove helpful and totally detrimental to divorce proceedings. This is the world we live in now, we must accept it. Now who wants tacos? We don’t have to talk to anyone at all to get them delivered to our door. Hang on, I’ll grab my phone.

Respectfully,
James Sexton